New family-owned diner replaces rundown Sizzler in North Long Beach

A rundown Sizzler at Long Beach and Del Amo boulevards has been transformed from a chain steakhouse to a diner named after the matriarch of the family that has owned the business for 50 years.

After undergoing a complete makeover, the new North Long Beach restaurant opened as Bebe’s Diner on Jan. 5, replacing the Sizzler that sat vacant since closing a few months after the start of the pandemic in 2020.

The new eatery features traditional Southern breakfast dishes like pancakes, eggs and ham and grits, alongside Mexican favorites such as huevos rancheros smothered with chili con carne.

The restaurant is being overseen by Jeff Higgins, who turned over ownership to his daughter, Grace Higgins.

“My wife and I and my daughter had wanted to do something like this for a long time,” Jeff said. “We had never done breakfast before and wanted a retro modern diner, so we jumped at the opportunity as it came. It’s our way of giving back to the neighborhood who has been so loyal to us.”

The lease for the building has been in the family for five decades. Jeff’s father, Ron, first leased the location in 1972. He opened a Sizzler franchise, a popular restaurant in the 1970s and 1980s after becoming one of the earliest pioneers of the “all-you-can-eat” salad bar.

The company, however, fell on hard times, and the parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2020.

Councilmember Al Austin, who represents the North Long Beach area where the restaurant is located, said he was “elated” to see this area alive and upbeat.

“It’s very much a refreshing change, a welcomed and necessary addition to our community,” Austin said.

The new diner combines contemporary furnishings with some of the feel of a 1950s classic diner, with booths and sage green stools lining a counter eating area.

On the wall is a picture of Bebe herself—Jeff’s grandmother, Bea “Bebe” Ryan, who died at 96 in 2011.

The Higgins family hired Chef Nick Dieugeno to take the lead in creating a menu with recipes that resonated with some of the foods they grew up eating.

Upon having his first child, Dieugeno moved back to his hometown of Long Beach following his work as a cook for Chef Ori Menashe’s Middle Eastern restaurant Bavel in Los Angeles.

“After having been in fine dining, it was always my intention to return to classic American comfort but with more updated and trendy ingredients,” Dieugeno said.

Distinct from other diners, Dieugeno said that all of Bebe’s sauces will be made in-house, from scratch and with simple ingredients. Dieugeno hopes to infuse Bebe’s food with the love the owners and himself have for their city.

“We don’t have secret recipes, but what we have is freshly made, all-American food with the most important ingredient: love and attention,” Dieugeno said.

Bebe’s Diner’s current hours are breakfast from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Monday through Sunday. By the end of January the restaurant will be serving breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. every day.

Bebe’s Diner is located at 15 W. Del Amo Blvd.

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